This guest post is written by Randy Smith. Randy is a thoughtful and caring person who leads comfortably behind the scenes or upfront. He currently serves on our Leadership Team among many other areas and as you’ll see below, he brings a thoughtfulness to everything he does.
A quick editorial note: Randy writes from a complementarian position. Discovery has both complementarians and egalitarians. If you don’t know what that means, you can pause, thank God and get on with your day and enjoy this excellent response below. The blog is thorough, so you’ll have to click “read more” to see the full article.
Q: Relationships: #5 – What scripture can I read to my husband on how to treat his wife?
Preface: First of all, I want to be careful on addressing this question, as I do not know the contextual issues leading to the question being asked. In a blog such as this, I can only assume a baseline of marital woes along the lines of; the author of the question may be feeling taken for granted, neglected, and/or does not feel respected by her husband. If there are other, much more serious problems, I would encourage counseling or possibly other professional help.
The question starts with the right premise in two ways. First, the source of information is being sought after in the Bible. Placing God as the foundation of a marriage is the healthiest thing that can be done to build a strong marriage. If you want to find out what God has to say on the subject of marriage, or any other subject, the Bible is the ideal place to begin.
Second, by how the question is worded, it seems as if she wants to read/study the Bible with her husband. Hopefully, the intent is to work together to find the answers she is looking for to strengthen the marriage. After all, the purpose of marriage is to become a strong, unified body.The Bible tells us, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24, NIV). A marriage built with a framework of unity, on a solid foundation in Christ, is what God intended when he put man and woman together.
However, when the unity is out of balance, the marriage is out of balance. So, we will look at this question as we should in marriage, from both sides, how husbands and wives should treat each other to maintain unity.
Although there are many verses in the bible that speak about marriage, the most comprehensive place to look is in Ephesians 5:21-33. In this passage, the picture Paul gives us of marriage is a great model for building and growing a marriage. He gives us an example and expectation for us to follow. Paul tells us about love, respect, sacrifice, and unity. Every ingredient needed for a strong marriage. We will break the verses up into sections, starting with verses 21-24.
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:21-24, NIV).
This definition or intent of submission in this passage is often misinterpreted as being week or something more of a master and slave relationship. The husband is the boss and the wife is bound to do as he commands. The intention here is nothing of the sort.
When Paul talks about submission, he is talking about Christ-like submission. As Christians, we are to pattern our relationships after Christ in love, humility, and kindness in our relationships with one another as we have submitted ourselves to Christ.
In the husband and wife relationship, Paul does establish the man as the head of the wife. However, he tells husbands and wives to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”. Paul is telling us that the wife is complimentary to the husband, and the man and the woman are equal before God. The leadership given the husband is not absolute over his wife, but allows him to take the initiative and allows the wife to respond. How the husband is to use his leadership is tied with his other duties.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. ” (Ephesians 5:25-30, NIV).
Of course husbands are supposed to love their wives. But unfortunately, I am not sure if it is clear on what that really means. I think we have a good idea. But, what is Paul talking about? What does it mean to really love?
In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis wrote, “… by Love … most of us mean kindness—the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy.” He goes on to say that God is not like that. “God does not govern the universe on such lines. And since God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction.”
The kind of love Paul is taking about in verses 25 – 17 is a sacrificial love. Paul uses the sacrificial love of Christ for the church as the example the husband is to model. Chances are we will not have to lay down our life for our spouse. So, what else is Paul trying to tell us here about sacrificial love?
Paul says, “…love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” He is talking giving up our own selfish wants and needs and lay down for our partner, just as Jesus gave up His divine rights to be human and serve mankind. Furthermore, he is to do this with no expectations of getting anything in return for himself, but only to lift up his wife. Husbands are submit to his wife and adapt his life to meet his wife’s needs to be secure and valued. He is also to provide for her growth and development. When a husband loves his wife sacrificially, she can bloom as God planned.
This does not mean he is a pushover and whatever the wife wants, she gets. He is to be her spiritual leader and ensure her spiritual needs are being met, as well as her emotional and physical needs are being met. “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” It is the husband’s responsibility to be his wife’s protector and set her apart from this world.
Love also means he must speak the truth, in tenderness and love, to his wife for her own good and correction that can only be done out of love. This is not always easy to do because we risk emotional pain or rejection when face confrontation or areas that are sensitive. However, if a husband truly loves his wife, he shares everything with her, good and bad, and is completely honest with her. Especially, when it is hard to do so.
A husband must put God first and his wife above all other things, including his family, his friends to become one in unity with his wife. He is to love and protect his wife as he loves and protects himself because they are one being.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:31-33, NIV).
Now, wives, I have not forgotten about you. Much of what I have said can apply to you as well. But, there are a few things that you can understand about your husband’s needs. As a husband is called to love his wife, a wife is called to love and respect her husband. The definition of respect is to admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements. It is a wife’s responsibility is to hold her husband in the highest regard, build him up, and be supportive in his leadership in their relationship.
This is done in part by submitting to her husband’s leadership. Jesus submitted to the Father, the husband submits to Jesus (based on 1 Corinthians 11:3), the wife submits to the husband using all her gifts and strengths for the betterment of the marriage. God made woman to come alongside the man and become his partner and helper.
A wife is the husband’s helper by being trusted counselor and supporter, helper around the house, a helper with the children, and a helper in all aspects of their life as a married couple. Notice I said helper. Yes, I did. The running of the household is not the duty of the wife alone! It is to be shared by both.
Finally, a wife must also love her husband. Although, for women the concept of sacrificial love is not as enigmatic as it is for men. But how does she show love and for her husband?
A loving wife shows her love and respect by how she treats her husband. A wife should have a grateful spirit and appreciate her husband’s loving provision to her. Point out a husband’s strengths and be an encouragement to him. Praise him for his Godly leadership. In counseling him or making an appeal to him, speak to him in a kind and gentle spirit. This will maintain the respect of the husband and will bring you closer together as husband and wife.
Man and woman were brought together as husband and wife to become one being. We were designed as a compliment for each other. In his divine wisdom, God gave us an example and expectation for us to follow to grow our relationship with each other. We are meant to move toward each other as well as moving towards God.
Sometimes, one partner may not be moving in the same direction as the other partner. If that is the case, it is still your duty as their partner to keep moving towards them as the Bible instructs us, without expectation and sacrificial love towards them. Pray for them and keep moving towards them. They may be surprised. Then again, you may be surprised too!
As I stated in the beginning, placing God as the foundation of a marriage is the healthiest thing that can be done to build a strong and long lasting marriage. I can speak from over 24 years of experience of marriage. Some as a Christian, most as not. With God at the center of our marriage and following these guidelines, it has made all the difference in the world in our marriage and our lives.